A Derry charity organisation has apologised after “hundreds” of confidential client reports were discovered blowing across Derry City Centre on Sunday.
Contact, the Lifeline crisis helpline provider, learned of the security breach on Sunday afternoon but the records had been blowing around since at least 10.30am. Lifeline provides crisis counselling and support to suicidal, depressed or distressed clients. The £3.5 million Health Trust funded project supports more than 20,000 people each year, including immediate telephone support and face to face counselling.
The documents are understood to have blown out of a fire escape on the roof of the Embassy Building, Waterloo Place. Contact claimed to have recovered all the Lifeline documents early yesterday morning however the ‘Journal’ were contacted by a health professional who had discovered the documents on Sunday morning, some of which were still in her posession.
The member of the public, who did not wish to be identified, said: “I don’t wish to have a go at Lifeline as they do great work but I was shocked almost angry at the fact these details were blowing around. In fact I found it distressing. They said they only discovered the breach at 3pm but I found the documents at 10.30 while on a walk with my husband.
“Without exaggeration there was literally hundreds of documents and pages blowing around Waterloo Place, Victoria Market car-park and down to the River Foyle. Contact have said they recovered the documents but we saw some in the Foyle so how could they have?”
The ‘Journal’ have seen the documents. One is a call log with the names and ages of some 36 callers to the charity. It includes the private details of some young distressed teenagers.
Another is a clinical consult log of a meeting with a distressed client. The clients medical history is written on the sheet. Details such as suicide attempts could be read by the public on Sunday.
The ‘Journal’ has redacted the material in order that the patients confidentiality is not hampered further.
When made aware of the documents Fergus Cumiskey, Clinical Director, Contact said: “We will make contact with every person identified on the sheets. I would stress that almost all the information on them was coded. Never once before has there been a data breach but that is no excuse and we will launch a full rigorous investigation. Of course that is a concern that trust in the project has been damaged but we welcome the opportunity from the media to explain ourselves.
“We are prepared to address all the repercussions that any person identified faces with them. Most people have been very courageous. In next two days we will be in contact with every person who called us or who have been identified. We have been fortunate in this instance that these were summary details not intimate notes which made their way into the public domain.”
Mr. Cumiskey also confirmed: “Contact have initiated a thorough investigation on how the incident occurred and wish to reassure the public that Lifeline client information storage is now entirely compliant with all statutory governance demands.
“We will provide assertive outreach care today in support of Lifeline callers whose identity showed up on the papers. We fully realise the distress this temporary data loss has cause and sincerely regret and apologise for this serious incident,” he said.
“We encourage anyone concerned or distressed by this incident to call Lifeline 24/7 for immediate support. We would also appeal to anyone who has any of the documents so that we may arrange for their collection.”